Sergio Garcia continues media blame at Masters

Sergio Garcia at the 2024 Masters

Sergio Garcia speaks with media during the 2024 Masters.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — There’s a different feeling at this year’s Masters. It’s calm. Easy going. Happier than last year. 

The second Masters of the LIV Golf Era is decidedly less angsty than the first Masters of the LIV Golf Era. There has barely been a mention of the ongoing split between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf. (All due respect to the third actor in this arrangement, the DP World Tour.) Perhaps that’s because negotiations — at least the idea of negotiations — are said to be ongoing. That’s the word. Ongoing. So with the flowers in bloom, the course in mint condition and the sun high in the sky, the mood should be different this week. And in the future. And hopefully forever. 

Until all is settled in the golf wars of the 2020s, there will be some latent angst among pros. It’s just up to them whether or not it gets vocalized. Enter Sergio Garcia. On Tuesday afternoon, Garcia hoisted himself up onto one of the interview pedestals outside the Augusta National clubhouse for a brief chat with media. Dozens and dozens of players have done it this week. He answered seven minutes of questions in Spanish, then six minutes in English, the majority of the latter in a one-on-one spurt with Sky Sports reporter Jamie Weir.

When asked if he believes the game needs to unify its top level of players, Garcia looked straight at a member of the media and labeled the divide…mostly a construct of the media.

“I think the game is in a perfect spot,” Garcia said. “The professional game, maybe it’s a little more separated, mostly because of the media, not so much because of the players. But I think the game itself is in a great spot.

“I think that we have the most amount of people playing the game, which is great, and people have to realize one thing, that the future of the game isn’t us. We’re not the future of the game. Neither me or Rory, no. We’re not the future. We’re the present of the game.”

Presently, Garcia is guaranteed to compete against Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, and Jordan Spieth just once this year. This week yes, and who knows after that. He may have a different idea of what perfect means, but the result of a divide at the top end of the sport doesn’t place it in a “great spot.” The group of players competing this week is, on one hand, simply an invitational tournament. On the other, it’s the greatest marketing tool the sport has. 

Weir pressed Garcia to consider the ramifications of a niche sport gone divided. Is it possible golf isn’t popular enough to be fractured at the highest level? 

“Obviously the more togetherness that you get, the better it is for everyone,” Garcia said. “There’s no doubt about that. But there’s room for everyone. I don’t think that’s a problem at all.

“The same way that I love watching Real Madrid and La Liga, you like to watch the [English] Premiership and whoever your team is. Everybody can support whoever they have, and there’s plenty of people to support it.”

Garcia must have had the Champions League on the brain. His favorite club, Real Madrid, play in La Liga and were hours away from contesting a match against Manchester City, the kings of the Premier League. They’re two of the three best football clubs on the planet. They don’t play against each other often, but they both regularly compete in the Champions League, of which the final match drew a preposterous 450 million viewers across platforms in 2023.

La Liga and the English Premier League are able to sustain those independent viewerships — as Garcia notes — because of regionalized fandom and, importantly, because the global TV audience is so massive. Were golf to have an interested global television audience of 450 million, it too may be able to splinter into subsections and not concern the industry about the value of impending TV deals that prop up the tournaments players like Garcia compete in. Thanks to alarming reports from the beginning of the PGA Tour season, viewership sits high on the list of issues the sport is facing. Just ask Masters chairman Fred Ridley.

“If you look at the data this year, golf viewers are down on linear television while other sports, some other sports are up,” Ridley said during his annual press conference. “So you can draw your own conclusions. Certainly the fact that the best players in the world are not convening very often is not helpful. Whether or not there’s a direct causal effect, I don’t know. But I think that it would be a lot better if they were together more often.”

As for drawing conclusions, Garcia clearly has his own. And to his credit, he was good-natured as he shared them. He was smooth and resolute. What he believes is what he believes, and he’s entitled to those beliefs. But not every comparison is as simple as he thinks.

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